A Day at Drusilla's

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 12 June 2007

The computer read out said 00.00 when I started. No time like the present eh? Although I always find 00.00 a strange 'moment' in time. It's as if for 60 seconds we just don't exist. In my haste to write to you, I pressed the wrong button and lost all the words. So it's now 00.14. Fourteen minutes to create a little blog and a single click for it to disappear into the ether.

Anyway, today was a birthday treat for my step-grandaughter. Jim is acting, so it fell to me and BB to be the family contingent. Drusilla's is on the way to Alfriston in East Sussex. (The very first place I holidayed in when I was 30. It's very pretty and dead english, not literally, you understand.) Drusilla's is a small zoo that has meerkats, monkeys, marsupials, basically anything beginning with 'M', and a little more. It's hands on for kids and has all sorts of fun things to do like clocks that you start with a thump which count how long you can hold your breath like an otter underwater or how long can you stand on your leg like a pink flamingo. They're such daft birds: sleeping one one leg with its head tucked underneath its wing, it's the the kind of thing my husband did when he was a young hippie high on button mushrooms.

Parties of school kids walked around with their clipboards, staring into the eyes of crocodiles and marvelling at the beavers and squirrel monkeys. One year old Maia loved it all. Zoe and Corin, her parents, were made up with their first born's first birthday so brought along a bottle of bubbly and a chocolate cake from Asda.

I have to say that it would have been rude of me not to honour the littlun's anniversary so I tucked into the chocolate sponge until BB covered it up with paper napkins and forbid me to put one more crumb into my mouth, reminding me that 5,000 ago I was doing the chocolate thing and that it was no longer fitting for a raw foodist to indulge in such decadence. But the Champagne tasted horrible with the chocolate cake which left a residue behind my teeth.

When I got home I ate lettuce and hummus as a penance although I decided not to dwell on the misdemeanor as it would have been inappropriate to celebrate Maia's milestone with raw cabbage and a spring onion.

The zoo is lovely although I do have a problem looking at animals caged up. They all look psychotic to me, the same feeling I had in San Diego. When we went into the bats enclosure, apart from the intense smell there was a plaque on the wall reminding us what a success story the Rodrigues bats are. They had grown from a nearly extinct 100 to a healthy 600 so my guilt was assuaged.

I love them Meerkats. They remind me of my family. Standing on their back legs with that look of paranoia, always watching for predictors but happy in each other's company. They do, however, eat birds and mice which is something I don't encourage amongst my family members.

We drove back vie Glyndebourne and Ringmer to arrive in time to give the dog his brown rice and Chappie. Oh, and the cat her 'oh so meaty' Felix pouch.

The daughter loaded her car and drove back to Lewisham to unload her room. She's moving out of halls and staying in the flat until October.

I am now all alone in the cottage, apart from several midges, one remaining bluebottle and the dog and cat. I don't know where the bluebottle came from but it's buzzing around my head is really irritating. My father used to chase insects with a rolled up copy of the 'Daily Worker', the organ of the Communist Party. Dressed only in his birthday suit he would search for moths and flying flies. He continued his safari when the paper changed it's name to the 'Morning Star' although I'm not sure the name change made him any more effective as a little game hunter.

I don't like swatting them big blue bottomed bombers so I've opened the window to try and shoo it out with a big white envelope that's next to the computer. The trouble is that the incoming breeze has brought in a shoal of midges. I don't know what the collective noun is for midges. I do, however, know that a group of ravens is called an 'unkindness', a group of peacocks is an ostentation, a group of doves is a pitying and a group of owls is called a parliament.

I did wonder whether a group of telly execs were called an abomination but I value my new career to offer that one.

Being alone has its advantages. I can exercise when I want. I can watch whatever flotsam I want on telly and I can read, write and juice to my heart's content. What I realised tonight was that I hadn't been properly in the cottage since I stopped GFL in April.

The garden is lush, the cobwebs are profuse and the bed is gloriously big without the old man. I also realised that I hadn't properly grieved since the show came to an end. So, whilst I was squatting to strengthen my legs to regain and sweating over my sit-ups I did some big crying. Big wet tears. Nothing for you to worry about. It's all part of the process. The last exercise on the OHI CD is designed to massage the whole body. You have to force yourself to laugh.

It starts off with phony hooting until you can really get yourself guffawing to release the tension. Tonight I laughed through my tears. Very interesting, I thought.

I am making myself some seed cheese, pumpkin and sunflower seeds soaked in water, then whizzed until it's the consistency of mackerel pate. 6-8 hours standing in a warm place and then hung in the fridge. The result is a protein rich spread that my husband would use as putty but would think twice before he put it into his carnivorous gob. I love it. It tastes like creamy tahini and works well with celery and cos lettuce, to which I have become addicted.

I found out today that UKTV the channel won an award. Apparently there was a picture of me in a media newspaper but no mention of the show. That did made me sad.

I also found out today that when I tried to hold my breath for as long as an otter, my three young companions managed at least 90 seconds I did a princely snatch of 27. I'm forgetting to breath!

I also had a moment of panic when I thought the zipper in the back window of my car had stuck. Yes, it's a little red Mazda MX5, but you knew that. I called the garage who wanted 1,000 for a new roof. So, on the suggestion of Maggie Maruzzi, our chiropractor, I took a candle and rubbed it on the teeth... of the zip, not in my mouth, and low and behold, I got the zip working. The candle now lives in my car along with my red lippy, chewing gum, 30,000 cds and a nail file. All necessary accouterments for a good old Jewish Princess like moi.

I also have a box of tissues behind my seat and a wooly Peruvian hat that I jam on my head when I take the roof down, which I nearly couldn't do if it hadn't been for my candle trick.

But now my moan for the week. If we want our children healthy, do not serve ready-made garbage for lunch in family centres like zoos. There. It makes me so angry.

BB demanded that I shut up when I complained about the lack of good food. She asked, politely, if we could take our plastic bowls of dead salad to the picnic area that was 50 paces away. After three phone calls, we were let out of the canteen. I dropped my red cabbage on the floor outside the tatty soft toy store, which B said was good because the cabbage was full of sugar.

And now I need to talk directly to Jane. Yes, Jane. I did get to keep all the clothes from the show. Presenters get wardrobe, hair and other allowances. Otherwise, what would we wear. Actors get costumes. We have them too. I mean, I don't wear velvet fringed robes in real life. Now the show has come to an end, I have 25 boxes cluttering up the flat. When I have time I will throw out some, charity shop others, gift more and keep the rest. A girl's got to do what a girl's got to do. Some of the clothes are hideous, others lovely, but now that I am a shadow of my former self, a little culling is necessary.

To my Carcasson blogger, how lovely to hear from you. Did you know that when the Cathars lived there hundreds of years ago, they discovered that spiders were very good for healing wounds? Something about their webs being good with our skin tissue.

And as for Dave and Andy in Somerset... You should be ashamed of yourselves, encouraging me to read the kind of literature that was left on the settee in the Soho barber shop. But, I hear you. I'll send my old copies on!

Look, I am another hour older, and I have things to do before it's Tuesday. Thank you for hanging in there with me. I really appreciate it. CU2morrer.

Jeni Barnett tells of her scrumptious time at Good Food Live in her first audiobook! Download NOW from iTunes


1. At June 12, 2007 8:31 AM Dave W wrote:

Hi Jen,

Drusilla's...thats a blast from the past. Coming from Brighton myself, I seem to remember being sent there on annual coach trips. Now was it infants or junior school?...must have been traumatised, cant remember that bit.

All I can remember are all these kids, with their lunch boxes, brimming with crisps, choc and all the cr*p we had in the sixties!...no clip boards in those days (going back a bit!!) Most of which had been eaten before we even got there.

Don't remember the caged occupants, but can remember the horrendous coach trips home...you can imagine it... a rickerty old coach full of children, stuffed to the hilt and bumpy roads.

No wonder I moved to Somerset when I could.


Dave and Andy

ps is that open air building museum still there? near Alfreston I think. Dad dragged us there on may occasion to see the rebuilt medival cottages and farm buildings etc.. Must go back if it is..would appreciate it nowadays!

2. At June 12, 2007 12:49 PM karenKaren@leepublicity.co.uk wrote:

Why do you always finish with cu2morrer when sometimes there can be days without communication! Have become stangely intoxicated with your prose. cu2morrer......maybe?

3. At June 12, 2007 1:42 PM Sarah Ansley wrote:

I miss you Jeni! GFL was the best food show ever, and that's not just complimentary waffle, I mean it. I have a similar (crooked?) sense of humour, and hardly watch UKTV Food any more - nothing holds my interest. We need you back and soon. Love and hugs, Sarah. PS Sounds like you're a shadow of your former self, what is OHI?

4. At June 12, 2007 3:27 PM Glenn wrote:

Hi Jeni, been reading your blogs for some time now, and I thought it was time to "out" myself . Not that way...(already done that!) but as a Jeni fan! Missy, you are a great entertainer and while you did food brilliantly, I'm sure you'll do whatever you lend your hand to just as well. You write with wit and straight from the heart, and I hope that it's not too long before we see you again on out TV screens. I live in Hamburg Germany where I also work in the business we call show and I know how hard the knockbacks can be. And the worst thing is, they just keep getting harder. What a great thing this is, that we can directly communicate with you to tell you how very much you mean to us and how gorgeous and talented you are. Keep going and keep telling us about yourself and your path....we're all listening quietly. :-) Greetings from Hamburg, Glenn

5. At June 12, 2007 4:57 PM christian wrote:

And My personal message?

6. At June 12, 2007 5:50 PM Chris wrote:

I love reading your journal, so entertaining and witty, I'm very jealous!
All this talk of Drusilas is taking ME back to my young-childhood, what a cute little place!
All the best
Chris x x

7. At June 12, 2007 6:28 PM Stephanie wrote:

I'm getting homesick for Sussex now - I used to go past Drusilla's on a regular basis. ~sigh~ Milton Keynes just isn't the same.

Do you have a recipe - or should that be a method? - for the seed cheese? I'm in the process of converting from veggie to vegan, and it sounds like a good addition to my list of proteins.

Hope you have a lovely week!


8. At June 13, 2007 12:00 AM Ruth wrote:

Hello lovely Jeni,
I just wanted to tell you that you were in my thoughts as I zoomed down the A26 today on my way to Lewes. Not quite in a red Mazda but my blue Corsa was trying!!
I had my fingers crossed that you were well and laughing, not crying. Or if crying, then laughing! :)
Oh look, I'm not the only one who is up typing away at 0:00! Madness!!!
Ruth x x

Copyright 2007, Jeni Barnett. Website produced by Chopstix.